Keys to Success

The keyboard is the most important tool in any gamer’s arsenal. It’s important to bind keys to abilities because you can react quicker to keys then to mouse clicks. Ask any player you know, and they will tell you that no matter what platform you compete on (RTS, FPS, MMO), it is absolutely essential to have a quick reaction in order to survive.

I remember back in the old days of Starcraft and Warcraft 2, I would manually click on the build icons to construct whatever units and buildings I need. Not so anymore. As time progressed, I started to slowly adapt to using keys. It was a gradual process at first, and I found I had to mouse over and figure out what key corresponded to what unit. Now it is simply second nature. However good you think your hand-eye coordination is, it cannot possibly compare to a player who is aware of where their fingers are placed and what they need to press.

This essential skill doesn’t even have to apply purely to gaming. Real world applications like Outlook or Word have built in keyboard shortcuts as well. Sure it might take 3 or 4 seconds to press the save button or bold a word. But if you deal with multiple documents all those seconds start adding up. Some of these keys are universal as well.

* Ctrl + S = Save
* Alt + F4 = Close program
* Windows key + D = Show desktop
* Ctrl + B = Bold
* Alt + Enter = Full screen (Some programs)

Those keys are universal. Back at my old job, I noticed the office folks were busy using the mouse clicking and clicking instead of using shortcuts. I guess it’s one technique which they can use to run the clock, but efficiency just goes down the drain.

When you’re mapping your keys in gaming, however, a majority of the time your keys will revolve around your left hand. This restricts the amount of keys you can bind since it would be too troublesome to constantly reach across the keyboard from one side to the other with only your left hand. The key’s that are within reach are: Q, W, E, R, T, A, S, D, F, G, H, Z, X, C, V, B, `, 1 – 5. Throw in the shift and ctrl keys and you get three times the options.

Typically, a player’s movement keys are the W, A, S, D keys. That’s considered the point of reference. With fingers rested on those keys, everything else is within striking distance.

My Shaman’s keys were a mess so I decided to completely reconfigure them. After much discussion and theorycrafting, I narrowed down the list of spells and abilities I would need for PvP.

Nature’s Swiftness
Eartshock, Rank 1
Earth Shield
Windfury Totem
Grounding Totem
Magma Totem
Chain Heal
Frost Shock (Rank 1)
Flame Shock (Rank 1)
Frost Resist Totem
PvP Trinket
Lesser Healing Wave
Healing Wave

The list doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re under pressure from an opposing team, actions needed to be decided quick. So I had to set them up in a priority order spreading outwards.

Anyway, don’t discount how important it is to map keys. Precious seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. I didn’t know that anybody but myself worried about this kind of stuff, as my key setup, which I consider absolutely the best, seems to be completely unheard of anywhere else. And yet, when I’m getting ganked, they sure seem to have quick access to everything they need to gank me…

    Anyways, here’s how mine’s set up: I have a Logitech MX3000 wireless desktop combo. That’s a keyboard + laser mouse. The mouse has not only a left and right mousebuttons, but a scroll wheel with vertical + horizontal axis, and five other buttons. The first two of those five additional buttons are counted as MouseButton4 and MouseButton5.

    In the Logitech mouse driver software, I map the other three of the five addicionatl keys to generate a keypress event for the keyboard keys 3, 4, and 5. I also change the left and right horizontal scroll events to map to 6 and 7.

    Then I have an action bar mod (Trinity, most any of them will do the trick) with 8 button spots on it. MouseButton4 and 5 (my two thumb buttons) are mapped to the first two spots. They keys 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 go to the next five. Remember, those map to the other three buttons, plus scrolling the wheel left or right. The eight button is mapped to the middle mouse button (pressing down on the scroll wheel).

    That gives me 8 actions that I can access with just my mouse, and leaves my left hand free to steer, so that I’m never caught standing still.

    What’s that you say, we need MORE? Just add combinations of Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Alt+Shift, Alt+Ctrl, Ctrl+Shift, and Alt+Ctrl+Shift. Once your hands get used to what abilities are stored in which bar slots, you are literally now at one with your WoW character.

    Does this seem overly complex? Maybe that’s why I’m the only one I’ve ever heard of that does anything like this…

  2. I’m frequently updating my keybindings. I still don’t know how you can move and hit number buttons at the same time. This is especially a problem in PVP. Using my mouse to turn and only the key board for forwards/backwards/straffe has helped but I still find myself wanting to use an ability and hitting the right key a split second too late. I also got a mouse with a lot of buttons, which helps. Unfortunately i can only adeptly use the 2 extra buttons on the thumb and not any of the other extra ones.

  3. Gius: You can try having more than one option for some of your PvP keys.

    This way if you are on the run, perhaps you can use a mouse button or a mouse click to trigger the spell or ability. If your fingers aren’t busy on WSAD keys, they can still trigger the same spell via a keyboard shortcut.

    My interface tends to have all my instant spells clickable, as I can’t always use all my hotkeys. Like if I am strafing to the left I can’t press number 1.

    I find when I’m circling an enemy I almost always run in the same direction because of this.

    shhhh. don’t tell em.

    zupas last blog post..The Arena Build

  4. ^^ instants because those are the only ones I cast while running 😉

    zupas last blog post..The Arena Build


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